Saturday, August 13, 2022

Redemption Arc

I recently read a rather fun YA book series wherein all the characters who were not completely evil got some sort of redemption. The author herself says that these were her pandemic comfort writing project. There’s a lot to like about the books; the ethics of empire are discussed, and the ethics required of superheroes are demonstrated – if you, in your person, are a weapon of mass destruction, what rules do you live by, so that you do not turn into a monster?

But I don’t believe. Not everyone can be redeemed. Some people lack empathy. Others lack the capacity for introspection that allows them to recognize their failings. Still others have made irrevocable choices that turn them into monsters in human skin suits. What redemption was there for Hilter’s captains? What for the people who decided, monstrously, to spread covid throughout the United States? To the group that probably plotted to give the cruel murderer Mohammed bin Salman the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, and may have successfully done so? Not only do I not see redemption for these, I do not even see that they ought to be allowed to live.

Yes, Donald J. Trump has led me to reconsider the death penalty. He is not only an alleged rapist and a likely traitor, he has not only likely started a civil war in the USA, he seems to have taken actions that might yet cause World War III. He has had numerous opportunities to recognize the damage he has done and make amends and has not done so – he is one of those who both lack empathy and the capacity for introspection. Do we allow him to continue his depredations?

Friday, July 22, 2022

The Compromise of 2022

Having watched the last January 6th hearing, I have a different reaction from many viewers. Elizabeth Cheney comes off as a hero and she is, indeed, an able prosecutor. She now has much undeserved fame. So while women are lionizing her I remember how she exploited Guantánamo Bay for her politics, participating in the continuance of that illegal prison. I remember how she supported Trump almost to the end. She is now knifing him and Josh Hawley. This reduces the competition and puts her in a position to lead a rejuvenated Republican Party, full of, I suppose, racist white women. As the excellent blogger and podcaster Driftglass observes, the conservative faction Ms. Cheney is senior is working hard on throwing the Trump administration down the memory hole, just as they did with the Bush II administration, while maintaining Trump’s destructive policies.

The objections of so many of the anti-Trump Republicans is not that Trump is a traitor, or a rapist, but rather that he is vulgar and an embarrassment. So they would be rid of him, but his tax cuts and his judges, those they want to keep. They want to keep spreading covid. The fossil fuel industry will continue to burn the world. Virginia Thomas will continue to be a backchannel, connecting the Supreme Court to the Dominionist movement. The attempt to turn women into second-class citizens will continue and, oh, by the way, Elizabeth Cheney is anti-abortion and has spoken in support of Dobbs.

This is the Compromise of 2022. Trump will try to return. He is popular, and probably will remain so even after yesterday’s embarrassing video. His followers will, if anything, find new hope in the revelation that he intended to lead them into the Capitol, and was only kept from doing so by his guards, who he fought. Republicans and conservative Democrats will work to maintain the legislative deadlock that maintains this situation. Meanwhile, the country teeters on the edge of civil war. We are running down to the midterm elections, and until Dobbs, the Republicans were likely to retake the House. Now, who knows? Perhaps the hearings will make a difference. The Proud Boys are engaging in anti-abortion terrorism and there is much feminist anger. Perhaps women will turn out en masse for the Democrats, but always before women have voted with their social milieu, not their interests as women.

I hope at least the 1/6 hearings change a few minds. I hope we see prosecutions of the leaders of the coup.

The struggle continues.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

The Biden Administration's PR Problem

Back in 2010, twelve years ago, I wrote that the Obama administration needed to act on policy; that messaging wasn't going to solve its problems. We now have the reverse situation: the Biden administration is doing many good things, the economy is booming, and no-one seems to know anything about it. Yes, the Biden administration has fallen far short of its goals, apparently due to the betrayals of Senators Manchin and Sinema. Still, a substantial amount has been done: the infrastructure act was passed, many of the worst Trump administration policies have been reversed, and Biden, apparently personally, has built a network of support for Ukraine.

There is apparently a timidity on the part of the administration that I do not understand at all. Texas and Florida are in all but open revolt. An epidemic is on-going and for some reason the Biden administration does not even fight for measures to control it. Then there was the tone-deaf response to the overturning of Roe v Wade where, despite ample warning, the administration seems not to have prepared at all. Biden even made a deal with the Senate Minority leader to appoint an anti-abortion judge.

There's so many people who have explanations for this. I do not; I don't know what is going on in the White House. Biden faces a hostile media, but as President he has a great deal of ability to move the news; I don't know why the administration is not using it. Trump was a master showman; the media, and some of the public, miss the theater of the Trump administration, regardless of how monstrous. Biden is not that, but this administration could do more.

Friday, July 8, 2022

The Racist Slogan “Republic not Democracy”

Written in exasperation. Right-wingers seem to think that saying “republic not democracy” is an excuse for any bad idea they have and I'm here to remind them that that is white supremacist nonsense.

This, it turns out, comes from a 1955 pamphlet “You and Segregation” by Herman Talmadge, who was elected Senator from Georgia in 1956. It was a pro-segregation tract written in response to the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v Board of Education, containing a mass of incoherent argument, similar to the white supremacist articles we see today. Here’s a taste of it from the section entitled “A Republic—Not a Democracy:”

Could it be possible that these Americans, who talk and write so much about "our democracy” do not know that this nation is a republic and not a democracy?

Could it be that they desire a gradual overthrow of our republic and the establishment of a “democracy”—as is advocated by the Communists and fcllow-travelers.

Could it be that these groups desire a “democracy” here in the United States where they will be only one race, one religion and one state?

It is evident that many of this group believe only in one mixed, amalgamated race; the anti-God Marxist religion; and one all-powerful central government not segregated by state lines or Constitutional barriers. This is obviously the “true democracy” they talk, write about and proclaim so brashly. – p. 17-18

So there we have it. If one reads on, one finds that Talmadge defined republic as a federation of independent states and democracy as a one governed by a powerful central government–one of the many iterations of the states rights theory that defended slavery and racism.

Talmadge won his Senate seat in 1956. I suspect that this pamphlet played a part. I am told that “republic not democracy” went on to become a John Birch Society slogan.

So the next time you see someone quoting this, you can call them on using a white supremacist slogan.

Oh, and the publisher? An outfit called “The Truth at Last” based in Marietta Georgia, which I found on the Nazi Stormfront site. It was operated by the neo-Nazi Edward Reed Fields. The edition scanned for archive.org was printed in the year 2000.


Addendum, July 21, 2022: the idea, it turns out, is older than the Talmadge pamphlet. The original sources appear to be libertarian. Historian Henry Steele Commager, in his lecture series that was published in 1943 as Majority Rule and Minority Rights, cites founding right-wing libertarian theorist Isabel Paterson and John Corbin, who I have never heard of, as sources. I do not know when the idea went from libertarian theory to racist slogan; that might have been Talmadge's work.

The 1943(!) Steele lectures are a ringing endorsement of the “living constitution” theory of legal interpretation and a scathing critique of constitutional originalism; that will be the subject of another post. Thanks to $1000man on Twitter for putting me on to Commager's remarks.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The long-term consequences of allowing COVID to spread among children

Many years ago I had a friend who died in his early twenties, falling out a window. An autopsy found that he had a previously undetected heart condition and had had a heart attack and fallen. I don't think the CT scan technology that would have shown the defect even existed at the time. In any event, he was a healthy young man and there was no reason to think he might have had a heart defect.

We know that among the possible long-term consequences of covid are lung damage, heart damage, and kidney damage. I wonder how many of those schoolchildren who are infected with covid are going to develop unforeseen lethal or severely disabling conditions in their twenties.

This is, of course, speculation. I think it very likely that many children will grow up and turn out to have long-term consequences of covid, but I don't know that it will actually happen. But neither do the leaders who are allowing the unchecked spread of covid among children.

Prosecute Corrupt Supreme Court Justices

It looks like the Second Taney Court, er, Roberts Court is poised to blow up the administrative state tomorrow. As I wrote eight years ago, “I cannot imagine how the USA can survive with an early 19th-cenutry legal system.” They may not do it. Justice Roberts seems to prefer vast buckets of dull grey paint to the bright lines which conservatives famously advocate, but the more extreme of the Court's reactionaries seem to prefer knives, and they seem to be in the driver's seat.

The character of some of these people is so, so poor that they are actual criminals. So I say, prosecute them. Justice Clarence Thomas's wife Virginia Thomas is allegedly an insurrectionist leader, and allegedly communicated with Justice Thomas during the insurrection. Investigate them for seditious conspiracy and, if there is a case, as I believe there is, prosecute them. Justice Brett Kavanaugh is an alleged rapist. Investigate him properly and, if there is a case, prosecute him.

Lock 'em up!

Monday, June 6, 2022

On Electing Fascists

I think what the election of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and all tells us is that pretty much anyone without a conscience and a large media presence can now win elections as a fascist.